Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 4/26/17

We try to stay up on what’s going on at Marvel, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of Marvel Comics. Today, we’re discussing Black Panther 13, Old Man Logan 22, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 17, and Ultimates 2 6. Also, we discussed Mighty Thor 18 on Thursday and will be discussing Hulk 5 on Tuesday, so come back for that! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

slim-banner4 Black Panther 13

Ryan D: Ok, Black Panther 13, I’m intrigued. Pivoting after the conclusion of “A Nations Under Our Feet”, the next arc, “Avengers of the New World”, raises a new milieu of issues effecting T’Challa and Wakanda. This time, the threat rearing its ugly head comes in the form of vengeful gods from the nation’s past, their arrival heralded by ugly snake-warrior foot soldiers as portals open across Wakanda. While I thought the action scenes were serviceable, I very much value incoming artist Wilfredo Torres’ take on the scenes between T’Challa and Storm.

Torres keeps all of the shots (save the last) as doubles, but moves the camera around, making sure the relationship between the two characters stays central but also visually varied. The scene works visually to characterize the dynamic between the two, while the text delivers essential exposition for the events to come — but all of it is very grounded and decidedly human.

While this new arc promises a bevvy of ancient deities returning to reclaim what was once theirs, I find the psychological underpinnings of the titular character most fascinating. While writer Ta-Nehisi Coates previously explored how the modern African navigates traditions of old which make up the fabric of cultural identity, I appreciate how this theme deepens as T’Challa, one of the smartest characters in the Marvel Universe, reconciles his intellect and love of science with his religious and spiritual side. I feel like that dissonance between head and spirit is one with which many readers can relate. Personally, growing up very religious in a small town, then going off to study then into the world, I can feel the dissonance between my religious upbringing and my intellectual understanding of the world as an adult, and I’m very keen to see how the series will handle that dilemma within the Panther.

I’ve always been curious about how characters — or specifically, the average citizens — in the Marvel Universe handle their faith in a world populated by Übermensch and gods from various pantheons (as was briefly explored about a year ago by a character in the Vote Loki series), so I feel like there is some real potential here amongst the dust-ups with lizard-people.

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Old Man Logan 22

Drew: In my writeup of Old Man Logan 21, I described the current “Past Lives” arc as “a kind of abridged history of Wolverine, hitting some familiar moments, but not really bringing anything new to them.” That characterization still applies to issue 22, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s the point. That is, perhaps the nostalgia-at-the-cost-of-narrative tenor of this issue isn’t an accident, but a commentary on the state of superhero comics.

Writer Jeff Lemire has proven himself to be rather daring in revising history (his Animal Man springs immediately to mind), which makes the “you can’t change the past” mechanic here stand out. Obviously, the rules of Marvel continuity means Logan can’t change the past, but the choice to take him on this tour, in spite of the narrative stakes suggests that “narrative stakes” can’t really be the goal.

You gotta fight (bum bum) for your right (bum bum) to TRAAAAAAVEL THROUGH TIME

Artist Eric Nguyen ably lends himself to this kind of non-revisionist revisiting, picking up on Andrea Sorrentino’s signature hard shadows, but softens them with feathering and drybrush effects, finding a kind of happy medium between Sorrentino’s style and those of the classic comics this issue is riffing on.

The effect is a story frozen in amber, entirely untouchable, even as the world changes around it. As an issue, it’s not the most satisfying, but as a commentary on the nostalgia-heavy way superhero comics are created, consumed, and talked about, it’s perfect. That may be giving this creative team too much benefit of the doubt — the message certainly doesn’t need a whole arc to come across — but it’s the only reading I could come up with that didn’t leave this issue feeling totally boring.

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Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 17

Ryan M: After the catharsis of last issue, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat 17 feels like an epilogue. That’s not a problem when the world and characters are so charming. Kate Leth and Brittney Williams have created a world so engaging that “Patsy and her friends go the Mall” is still a story line I was pretty excited about. Long-running story lines are wrapped up as Patsy finally receives her royalties from Hedy and Jen reaches out. We also see what the newest chapter may look like for Patsy and company. Patsy has been using her positivity and verve to recruit for the good team all along and we see her choose friendship over conflict again with her wayward fans.

Leth gives us everything we love about Patsy and her crew while Williams gets to play around a bit. We see Patsy’s bedroom and a makeover montage complete with several potential Patsy outfits. The page with Patsy’s options is a throwback reminiscent of the original Patsy Walker books. The series has been characterized by the empathy shown to each character, even the ones who try to fight Patsy. Again and again, we see that their actions are a result of some anger, fear or sadness. There is no pure evil in this world. That trend continues with the Walker Stalkers. Once they all sit down to talk out why the girls planned the attack, Ian quickly realizes the truth. This isn’t about Patsy so much as about a young girl with a crush on her best friend. Tom and Ian immediately take her under their wing. It’s reminiscent of Patsy’s behavior throughout the series, starting with Ian. Her compassion has a ripple effect and after all this time, we see how far it has reached. The issue ends with a splash page showing all of the people that Patsy has encountered during the series. Each of them are better off for her knowing her. I feel the same.

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Ultimates 2 6

Spencer: Be they animals, inanimate objects, or even abstract concepts, humans have a tendency to ascribe our own traits to decidedly non-human creatures. I suppose this could be chalked up to narcissism, but I prefer to think of it as humanity’s attempt to understand creatures, items, and concepts far beyond their comprehension.

What stands out about The Ultimates 2 6, then, is how Al Ewing and Travel Foreman go out of their way not to humanize the First Firmament, despite its unfathomable cosmic scope. Instead, the Firmament — the very first incarnation of the Marvel Universe, pre-dating even the concept of a multiverse — is defined by how it rejects human traits. As its creations break away and create a multiverse revolving around more “human” features such as mortality, growth, and change (Forman even gives the Multiverse a humanoid appearance), the First Firmament just watches, its hatred festering. It hates everything that makes Eternity and its inhabitants “human,” and will stop at nothing to wipe every last trace of them from existence.

With that in mind, it feels appropriate that the Ultimates’ first major victory against the First Firmament is achieved through the most human methods possible. Spectrum and Blue Marvel’s deep understanding of each other allows them to combine their bodies and strength; The Troubleshooters call on an old friend for help; Anti-Man sacrifices his very life to free Galactus from Logos’ curse.

I don’t know if there’s much more human than Anti-Man’s selfless devotion here.

What Ewing and Foreman do, then, is humanize an otherwise almost unfathomable plot. The First Firmament is no longer a complicated cosmic threat, but a danger to everything that makes us human. That makes the stakes of this arc far more tangible than they were before, and is already providing a lot more heart to a title that, for all its spectacle, can be clinical at times.

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The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

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3 comments on “Marvel Round-Up: Comics Released 4/26/17

  1. Black Panther: I praised Black Panther and the Crew for how it combined Coates’ strong thematics to a more typical story that he has a better handle on. He seems to be doing something similar here. Snake people are coming through a portal in waves is very typical, but provides structure for Coates that a complex, three faction rebellion doesn’t. You just do what you always do, but in the scenes where the characters go off to research the threat, you can have a discussion with Ororo about godhood instead of exposition. Add to the fact that Coates is rebuilding the T’Challa/Ororo relationship, giving the scene intimacy to go alongside the deep, thematic discussion, and you have Coates in a more comfortable position. Even so, there is still a lot to learn

    Especially when the art is also a let down. Action sequences are still terrible, in part because of boring art and in part because Coates seems to struggle to understand the structural requirements of writing action. But to me, the real problem is the page introducing the gods. More importantly, how they introduce Bast and Kokou. The designs are fantastic, but the way the panels are done confuses. WHile the other three each get a panel to introduce them, we initially have to guess which of the five are Bast and Kokou. There is no easy sign that the third one is Kokou. We want to read the Gods left to right, but the left most is Thoth. We could use the lettering, but the lettering is poorly placed. With Bast, it isn’t centred enough, but with Kokou, it is even worse. Kokou’s caption is placed between Kokou and Mujaji. Even worse, Kokou is placed at the very back, drawing our eye to Mujaji. Which, again, is a problem when it is only with the panel after that we learn that the fourth one is Mujaji. To make things worse, the next three are introduced in a different order than they are in the first panel, which means it is actually requires effort to work out which one is which and therefore work out which one is Bast and which one is Kokou.

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    Infamous Iron Man: I’ve long said Bendis is bad at team books. The larger the cast, the more he struggles. Here, Bendis’ problems with a large number of characters is combined with another, systemic problem in comics – the sheer level of cruft of forgotten villains. Characters whose only meaning these days is the fact that they are bad guys, and therefore struggle to be used as characters even as they kept being brought out for scenes that need lots and lots of villains. A good writer can do just enough to give these nobodies just enough to do their purpose, but Bendis, a writer whose weakness is specifically in this area, can’t.

    Which means we have a story filled to the brim with nobody characters, taking up space. Complete with baffling lines that don’t make sense, but without the time given to make that a meaningful joke. Crossfire saying that he always felt Doom was jealous of him would be a great joke, if it wasn’t a random line being delivered by a guy standing to attention like a robot. At least Bendis had the Hood, whose delusions of grandeur are always fun.

    But honestly, this was a bad issue. At least next issue has Ben Grimm come face to face with the Maker. Now that is a fantastic idea

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    Old Man Logan: I’m not sure I understand your argument, Drew. What context clues are there suggesting that this isn’t just a boring nostalgia-at-the-cost-of-narrative issue/arc? Depiction isn’t endorsement, but there needs to be more than just the depiction. There needs to be something that you can point to that is evidence to build your case. I’d love to understand your argument, Drew, but it feels like you haven’t providing the supporting material a good argument needs

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    Patsy Walker: Wow, this is the issue I’ve been waiting for from this book. Stripped down to the simplest elements, being little more than a fun final adventure, is a return to what I wanted after the attempts at more complex stories ended up garbled. Great fun, and rooted in the strengths of the book.

    Going back into the most basic iteration of the comic, gives us such fantastic stuff as the second page. Everything about the dynamics is cute, one and truly fantastic display of friendship. And the ‘Sweet Merciful Furiosa’ line is just fun, even as it is perfectly rooted in Patsy’s story of a millennial trying to find her way. And it just gets better. The perfectly done letter from Jen. The fantastic choice to root this issue in Jubilee’s famous love of the mall. The art on the makeover page, as they all enjoy trying on new clothes. And then all followed up with a supervillain fight, rooted perfectly with Patsy’s approach of empathy and redemption.

    In fact, the only problem I have with it is the discussions about Patsy closing the temp agency. This idea that it has to be an ending. The idea that this would come to an end. I feel this would have been much stronger if Patsy was committing to this path for the foreseeable future, saying that she was happy and was going to keep doing this (until the next writer wants to change things up, of course), than to suggest that Patsy was going to end things. Because there is no need for Patsy to end things.

    But still, after a rough, confused series of issues, this was a great ending. I love that final page.

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    Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: I may have had to wait months for LEGO Batman to finally arrive here, but I get Marvel movies a week early! And watching this on IMAX, as the Chain blasted through the speakers, was amazing (damn, that song is done well).

    There is a lot to praise about this movie. This is probably the best looking Marvel movie, up there with the very earliest stuff. Instead of the drab, colourless stuff we’ve got since the first Captain America movie, the colours truly pop. It takes the great cinematography of the first movie, and lets the visuals truly amaze. Which is great, considering also the quality of the visuals itself and James Gunn’s sheer inventiveness in ideas.

    But the other part I love is how it how it charts new territory. The first Guardians of the Galaxy basically mastered the typical Marvel movie, taking the same sort of structure as movies like Thor: the Dark World and Winter Soldier and perfecting it (why anyone calls Winter Soldier the best Marvel movie is beyond me. Lots of greatness, but compounded with problems). Having already mastered that, Gunn takes a different approach with this movie, focusing instead of a deep dive into the characters. It is a smaller, more personal movie, where internal dynamics rule the day.

    Basically, the Guardians have come together, but they struggle to fully commit to each other. Their pasts threaten to tear them apart, simply because despite finding each other, they are unwilling to commit. Peter hasn’t gotten over the fact that he never had a father, he’s still the kid trapped on Earth, feeling alienated. Gamora’s failure as a sister return to haunt her, and she needs to confront Nebula. Rocket is an arsehole, and he can’t stopping being an arsehole. Which both wrecks his relationship with the Guardians and hurts his attempts to raise Baby Groot. And Drax is unwilling to fully open up and be a member of a family again. In some ways, it is a lot like what I was discussing with the Telltale game, except no Thanos.

    And complicating this is Yondu, Nebula, Mantis and, of course, Kurt Russel as Ego. Yondu is coming face to face with all his sins, seeing the end of the road he started on. Nebula wants revenge on Gamora, for everything Thanos did to her because of Gamora. Mantis is a person with nothing but Ego. Unused to social interaction or any true sense of belonging, she is looking for connection, family. And Ego provides Peter with the life he always wanted, if not the life he needs.

    The weakest part of the movie is Drax and Mantis’ stuff. Both characters are great. Drax turns into the comedic powerhouse of the movie, and Mantis is hilariously funny and extremely empathetic. Quite simply, James Gunn has no better way to control the emotions of the audience than to get them to look at Pom Klementieff’s eyes. She’s a powerhouse that could be amazing in another movie (I really wanted to have a scene of her fighting a horde of mooks, using a combination of martial arts and her empathetic powers to cause an army to run away from fear, but quite simply, the movie has the wrong sort of villain for Mantis’ powers, as important as they are, to truly stand out). There scenes are all comedic gold, but there isn’t enough time to truly build the arc of Drax opening up and finding a surrogate daughter in Mantis.

    But the other arcs make up for it. Nebula’s story is fantastic, making her one of the MVPs of the movie. No longer the henchmen of the previous movie, she is now a textured, complex character that surprises us and creates one of the most compelling arcs of the movie. A fantastic story of her self actualisation, now that she is finally free from Thanos. And seeing her interactions with Gamora, and how the dynamic develops throughout the movie, is fantastic to watch

    Yondu and Rocket are a sensational combination. I do love it two characters who you wouldn’t expect come together so perfectly. It is easy to see Yondu as merely an extension of Peter’s story, but Gunn so perfectly sees how Yondu and Rocket come together. Yondu is Rocket’s future, and Rocket is forced to see what the end of a path of arseholery leads. And it isn’t a pretty picture, as Yondu finds having lost everything that was ever meaningful to him – most of it long before the first movie. The comparison is strengthened by Baby Groot, who is to Rocket what Peter was to Yondu. Leading to both of them getting amazing arcs.

    And meanwhile, there is Peter and Ego. A fantastic example of giving Peter what he wants, only to realise that what he needed was always around him. Hard to say much more, because, of course, this is the central relationship of the movie and I don’t want to spoil too much.

    But all these arcs come together to make a great movie. Ultimately, there is no big villain threatening the galaxy that the Guardians are defined against. This isn’t a story where they go off to fight the villain. No Ronan, or Loki, or Ultron that they have to fight. It is a story about their dynamics, and how things go wrong. It is about putting the Guardians and a couple of specific supporting cast members in the right locations, and exploring the drama that comes from that. Everything character driven, built around the proactive actions of the characters. And while eventually the Guardians do have to save the galaxy and fight the bad guys (who, because of this character dynamic driven approach, is one of Marvel’s best bad guys), it creates something new and unique, while focusing on what is truly the most important parts of these movies. Guardians of the Galaxy really is going to be Marvel Studio’s secret weapon, the quirky offshoot that is actually their strongest franchise.

    • Guardians 2 isn’t out for another week in America (where most of our staff is located) so I only skimmed your review Matt, but I’m psyched to hear such good things. I’m very excited to see it. I’m excited for Duggan and Kuder to take over its comic title as well, mainly cause I’m excited to finally see somebody other than Bendis have control of these characters.

      • I don’t know why the rest of the world gets Marvel movies early, but I don’t complain. Especially, as I said above, it makes up for the fact that movies like the LEGO Batman movie get held back till Easter.

        And yeah, I’m excited for Duggan and Kuder as well. Partly because it is going to be great to get the characters out of Bendis’ ill suited hands. But mostly because Duggan did such an amazing job with the Guardians in Secret Wars: Infinity Gauntlet. Between the new movie, Telltale and the new comic, it is a good time to be a Guardians fan

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